Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The trial of Sandy Ezekiel - Day 2

Yesterday, I drove from Margate to Maidstone Crown Court to attend the afternoon session of the second day of Councillor Sandy Ezekiel's trial where he stands accused of misconduct in public office. Alongside him also standing trial is Ezekiel's friend Philip Emmanuel.

The case surrounds the purchase of two properties in Margate Old Town. Firstly, 12B King Street which was purchased from Thanet District Council and then later the next door single storey shop building at 12A King Street, which was at the time the derelict This and That record shop, now home to the lovely Punkaboo clothes shop for children and babies.

The prosecution case states that Ezekiel had inside information to facilitate the purchases. 

Before setting off for Maidstone I looked up the latest position on Court reporting for the public and found: Basically, that established journalists no longer have to ask permission before hand to tweet from court, but with regard to members of the public permission, albeit informal, must be sought from the judge before hand.

Full Guidance from Lord Judge, 14th December 2011

On arriving at Court, I made my request via the Court Usher who instructed me to write a request to the presiding judge. I requested permission to live tweet and to record notes on my iPad. I took my seat in the public gallery. From Margate there were Councillors' Brian Sullivan and ex-Councillor Roger Latchford. I recognised the BBC news reporter Mark Norman. At the time I was there I couldn't see another journalist, although I'm told by the Thanet Gazette there is a Court Reporter covering the proceedings.

Sandy Ezekiel and Philip Emmanuel were seated in the dock behind a glass screen.

The first witness called was Derek Harding, who was Project Director of the Margate Renewal Partnership. The Court heard that Harding had been contacted by Ezekiel for the contact details of the owner 12A King Street with a view to smartening it up in line with the other projects identified as part of The Countdown to 2011. The Court heard that as Leader of the Council and Vice Chairman of the Margate Renewal Partnership Board, Harding had met Ezekiel quarterly to discuss a range of regeneration projects in the area. Harding told the Court he felt that Ezekiel's was very motivated to improve things in the Margate area. The prosecution asked if Harding was aware that Ezekiel was in receipt of rent for 12B King Street. Harding stated he had not been aware of this.

The second witness was Leslie Dalton who works with Mike Thompson in the Empty Properties Team at Thanet District Council. The prosecution questioned Ms Dalton regarding her enquiries to Derek Harding regarding the ownership of 12A King Street. Ms Dalston confirmed that the Council's Empty Properties team had at their disposal a range of measures to encourage landlords to improve unsightly properties such as the issuing of Compulsory Purchase Orders.

The third witness was Thanet District Council's Head of Planning Enforcement, Steve Albon. The Court heard that Mr Albon was also contacted by Ezekiel regarding the run down state of 12A King Street with a view to doing something about it. Mr Albon stated that he had been working in enforcement since 1987 and that 12A King Street had not come to his attention before this. The Court heard how Mr Albon was informed by Ezekiel that he was acting as the agent for a friend who was the owner of 12B King Street and who was interested in purchasing 12A.  Mr Albon confirmed that he did not inform the then current owner of 12A, that the agent for 12B was Councillor Ezekiel. Mr Albon confirmed this was his own decision to exercise caution and not under instruction by Councillor Ezekiel.

Ezekiel and Emmanuel deny the charges

The trial continues today at 10am and is scheduled to last for 1 week. 

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